Geneva’s compensation financière genevoise might seem altruistic, but it relies on a historical symbiosis unique to the Lake Geneva region. The bilateral agreement, introduced in the early 1970s, redistributes frontalier tax-money to Geneva’s bordering French departments, Haute-Savoie and Ain. The former receives 76.7% of the CHF 270 million dividend, the latter 23.3%. The funds are then redistributed according to local communal agreements. In the Ain department, for example, 60% will go towards the communes according to their respective share of frontaliers, and the remaining 40% towards the department.
The amount paid out by the canton is calculated each year according to the number of people working in Geneva who reside in France. If these figures are anything to go by, the cross-border work force is on the up (this year’s sum represents a 12.5% increase). This unique arrangement is a win-win for the French departments and their communes, as well as Geneva: the latter provides the bulk of the employment opportunities, France cheaper and more accessible housing. For many French towns, the money received is essential to meet the increasing demands on public services and infrastructure such as schools or the construction of social housing. The devolution of funds to communes situated beyond the historical frontier zone also emphasizes the strident realities of an ever-expanding economic region.